Our churches often avoid the topic of ethnicity and race because we don’t think it’s relevant to our faith, or we’re afraid of offending people and trying to avoid being “political.” More often than not, we don’t know how to talk about it and withdraw from conversations about race or ethnicity. We lack the skills, language, and understanding to be able to share the gospel in our diverse and divided contexts.
Perhaps the reason Christians have little to say is that, for a time, we bought into the secular world’s gospel of colorblind diversity as the answer to our problems of ethnic division. Colorblindness often meant polite avoidance or silence, inside and outside the church.
In buying into colorblindness, we did not examine the Scriptures’ rich depth of insight into God’s creation and intent for ethnicity, and we lacked biblical literacy on the issue, leading to lack of theological reflection, formation and repentance. Scripture formed no foundation for ourselves as ethnic beings. We either denied ethnicity as valuable or bought into the secular world’s understanding of ethnicity. This robbed us of the opportunity to hear the stories of people who are ethnically different than us. We are shocked and unsure of how to engage when we hear of things such as a race-related incident or hate crime. Our lack of ethnic identity understanding for ourselves and those around us led to a proclamation of a gospel that is irrelevant or powerless in addressing real aches, pains and questions. Racially and culturally unaware witness and involvement in our communities caused distrust; we sometimes did more harm than good and pushed people away from us—away from opportunities to hear the gospel and away from trusting Jesus. What resulted was and is a distant and often irrelevant, unaffected church.
The Christian story is one that acknowledges that we are fundamentally broken. Why would the realm of ethnicity and race be exempt from the influence of sin? Colorblindness mutes Christian voice and thought from speaking into ethnic brokenness. In holding onto colorblindness as the solution, we as Christians are trying to doggy-paddle when we actually need to learn how to swim. We might sink in our attempts to stay afloat or cause others to drown as we thrash about in our good intentions.
Our world is in need of the gospel, a good news that goes beyond colorblindness that is not afraid of addressing ethnic differences. When it comes to ethnicity, our world needs Christian voices to call for change and reform, with Jesus as the transforming center of it all. How can we relevantly live out the gospel in such a hotbed of emotions, scars, division and chaos? If we avoid this topic now, we withdraw into ineffectual witness in word and deed. And we leave a broken and hurting world, friends and strangers, in chaos.
Taken from Beyond Colorblind by Sarah Shin. ©2017 by Sarah Shin. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com